Before the Dawn. ( for Cassie Murray)
( On Friday December First 1961.)
A scad of snow
blankets the hills
and bitter easterly gales
batter the white-washed
walls of the Murray house.
Tinderbox thatch with a zinc roof
on top -Now a huge red glow that
covered the sky. Suffocating black
smoke saturated the house.
Fiery flames spiral into the darkness
Andy Mooney raised the alarm
and with Cassie he oxters to safety
a frail feeble Mary Anne who
rarely has ever trod outside
on black ice
or even on winter snows.
Frozen sisters with downed heads
struggle, stumble to reach the stable
and huddle together.
Cassie grabbed a black shawl
and Andy’s Yankee topcoat.
Barefoot snow prints showed
Andy’s sprint to Ernie Rainey’s to get help.
Fire brigade came – but too late.
House, all the contents and bric a brac
Was it a faulty brick to the chimney?
Maybe a spark from the hearth or
a burning candle left on with
all the papers on the window sill?
Not another house in Ireland
ever had had so many
Saint Brigit crosses made by
Cassie’s hand. Blessed crosses
hung above all doorways
and even the byre. But on that
freezing winter morn.
Where was Saint Brigit to protect
Cassie’s house from the fire?
Michael Boyle is a native of Lavey, Derry, Ireland. His poems have appeared in the The Antigonish Review, Dalhousie Review, Tinteán and New Ulster Writing. He was awarded ‘The Arts and Letters’ prize for poetry in 2014 by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador. He currently lives in St John’s New Foundland, where he conducts a historical walking tour.